A US envoy issue a veiled warning on Wednesday indicating that her country may consider pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council unless it halts its continued obsession with Israel.
The statement came at the end of a brief speech US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erin Barclay made at the opening segment of the council’s 34th session in Geneva, in which she spoke strongly in defense of Israel.
“For this council to have any credibility, let alone success, it must move away from its unbalanced and unproductive positions,” she said. “As we consider our future engagements, my government will be considering the council’s actions with an eye to reform, to more fully achieve the council’s missions to protect and promote human rights.”
Barclay said such reform would build “greater credibility for the UNHRC.
“The US also remains deeply troubled by the council’s consistent, unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel,” she said.
Barclay took issue specifically with the council’s mandate to debate alleged Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians at every session under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the sole topic of that Agenda Item.
There is no other country with a similar mandate. Human rights abuses by all other countries are debated under Agenda Item 4, including Syria and Iran.
“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item. How is that a sensible priority?” she asked.
“Right now, the Assad regime is bombing hospitals in Syria and forcing its own people to flee as refugees to neighboring countries to escape its murderous rule,” Barclay said.
In addition, she said, in North Korea and Iran, millions of people are “denied their freedoms.
“The obsession with Israel through Agenda Item 7 is the largest threat to this council’s credibility. It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council,” Barclay said.
“The US will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel, not just in the HRC but wherever it occurs,” she added. “When it comes to human rights, no country should be free from scrutiny.”
Barclay spoke just two days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the council that its ability to protect Palestinian human rights is a test of the body’s credibility.
At present the US is one of 47 UN member states that hold seats on the council and have the ability to vote. US president George Bush had boycotted the council over its treatment of Israel, while US president Barack Obama believed US engagement would help the council.
The US-based news website Politico raised the question of continued American engagement with the council last month, in a story suggesting that the Trump administration may want to pull out of the council.
Since it was published, Barclay’s words are the first formal US government statement that supports the Politico story.
Since the council’s inception in 2006, it has issued more condemnations against Israel than against any other country.
The council plans to hold its Agenda Item 7 debate on March 20, at which time it will consider three reports of alleged Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians and one regarding Israeli actions on the Golan Heights.
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